Carrying a drybag

10:06 p.m. on March 15, 2016 (EDT)
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Going on a canoe/camping trip with a few fairly long portages. I want to use my cabelas drybag for all my gear but it only has one shoulder strap. Does anyone know the best way to put a more comfortable carrying system on it? 

10:45 a.m. on March 17, 2016 (EDT)
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You can sew one on by hand with nylon backing on both sides.

A better alternative would be to buy a canvas pack like a Duluth, and carry your dry bag on top of it.  You can line the canvas with a heavy plastic bag to keep the moisture out.

1:56 p.m. on March 18, 2016 (EDT)
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They make dry bags with two straps so they can be worn like a backpack, especially for portages.

4:27 p.m. on March 19, 2016 (EDT)
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There are lots of great dry bags with straps and waist belts, but it is easy to get into some serious money when you need several of them.

9:34 a.m. on March 22, 2016 (EDT)
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I don't have a great deal of experience with water trips but if I had a long hike in store, I would just bring a regular backpack lined with a trash compactor (rolled and taped on top) and then a few dry bags inside of it for double protection. I've done some pack rafting with such a setup and it worked fine. As ppine says it can get pretty pricey to buy the purpose built stuff; I only do those type trips occasionally (no justification to spend the money for me).

Just a thought....

9:40 a.m. on March 22, 2016 (EDT)
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If you just want to spend some money there are packs that are just open harnesses that work with large dry bags like The ULA Epic:


Or the Six Moons designs Flex Pack:






10:27 a.m. on March 22, 2016 (EDT)
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Smaller backpacks will fit in a canoe standing up. The larger ones don't.

12:34 p.m. on March 22, 2016 (EDT)
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Hi Corey,

I have some experience with canoe trips, including longer ones. Some of what you ask depends on the length of the portages and the length of the trip overall. The later will determine how much gear you need to get across the portages. As well, the type and length of the portages, and whether this is a solo trip or with others.

I have to disagree with ppine regarding sewing another strap on a dry bag. This will be difficult to seal effectively and you need that for a canoe trip. As well, from your description the bag you want to use is more like a duffle with a strap,  which means you really would have to sew on two straps to make it a shoulder strap. There are various systems I use to carry my gear and I may have touched on them here on TS in my articles on canoeing. However, one way to carry such a duffle as I imagine you have, is to use a tumpline. I make mine using leather. They can also be purchased online. The tump is a very effective way of carrying a load, and not at all uncomfortable if you know how to tie and carry using one. In the first place, the load is carried mostly on the back, leaning forward with the tump to take some of the load and balance. Hands can be used on either side of the head to steady it. Do not make the mistake that many make, by putting the tump over the forehead. It should be over the top of the head.

A more effective system, is to use a Duluth pack. a No. 3 is sufficient for most individuals. The No. 4 is quite large, too large in my opinion. Plastic poly bags are used inside and do a very good job of keeping water out. The No. 3 comes with shoulder straps and an optional tumpline, which I would recommend.

Hiking packs, especially external frame packs are next to useless on a  canoe trip. They do not store in the boat well, have too many straps.

Alternatives are a commercial dry bag with straps(shoulder and waist). These are comfortable, expensive and reasonably durable. However, like all dry bags, they will spring a leak, and that can be difficult or impossible to locate and seal. This is why I prefer the Duluth system as the Duluth pack acts as an abrasion layer, and the poly liner is no more than a few dollars. When it leaks you use another. They are very heavy duty and in many months of canoeing, I have yet to have one fail. Note that these are very heavy duty, unlike a garbage bag.

Another system is to use blue barrels. These are very good and waterproof. They are relatively inexpensive, but the harnesses to carry them are not.

Issues to consider include the difficult of the portages and the length. The longest carry I have done was about 2 1/2 miles and the most I've done in a day totaled about 6 miles. But these were on trails. The hardest involved a trail less old burn through Nootka roses and then lowering the boats down a slope and then cliff about 150 feet. Although no more than a half mile, it took us parts of two days to get all our gear across. While many people dread the portages, I find it can be helpful to have a good attitude about them. Rather than try to do single carries which can be brutal if even possible on a long trip, I break it up and take my time. Portages are an opportunity to stretch your legs and see some of the country you've been paddling through. The walk back can be very pleasant. As well, on long portages, it is sometimes nice to cross the voyageur's way. Walk 1000 meters or so, put your load down and go get another load and repeat. By leap frogging, you can have more frequent rests. Also develop a system for all your gear. This involves your PFD, paddles, sponge and bailer, throw bag.

2:12 p.m. on May 27, 2016 (EDT)
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You can always stitch on a new shoulder strap, but then you no longer have a dry bag, as you've poked more holes into it. You can fix this by using a product called Seam Grip to seal the new stitches. It's super gelatinous, so I would use a small square brush to apply it. Also you can get rid of any globs you don't want with some acetone. 

Or you can always buy a new dry bag with two shoulder straps on it. I would recommend Sea to Summit as a dependable brand for dry bags. 

Hope this helps! 

February 23, 2020
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